by Desislava Ignatova (Bulgaria)

“The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them.” ― Ernest Hemingway

“Trust is built when someone is vulnerable and not taken advantage of.” ― Bob Vanourek

Have you ever wondered why trust is so fragile and once broken, it’s nearly impossible to be built up again? What exactly does it mean to trust someone? Do you equally trust yourself and others? Moreover, which one do you find easier to trust?

What is trust?

Trust takes a central part in many of our concepts, such as reliability, integrity, honesty, punctuality, and contact.

As Peseschkian (2012) defines it, trust is:

“the ability to place oneself in the hands of another and to feel secure with him. Trust first arises out of the soil of the primary capacities and the capacity to love, and involves the whole person, and sometimes the whole milieu, in a trusting relationship. On the other hand, trust is regulated through certain experiences which one has had with regard to the actual capacities…”

Trust is associated with our attachment style and our working models. While for some it’s easier to trust themselves and very challenging to trust others, for others ― it’s vice versa. It depends on whether the model of self, or that of  the others, is positive.

But how can we know whether we can trust someone?

Dr. Brene Brown suggests that trust is made of 7 equally important components. Those components are boundaries, reliability, accountability, vault, integrity, non-judgment and generosity.  One can easily remember them, as they form the acronym BRAVING.

Boundaries are very important not only for trust, but also for our mental health. They can be a set of rules, guidelines and limits, which we create to draw the line between the comfortable and the intolerable within relationships. In general, there are different types of boundaries, such as physical, emotional and sexual. It’s important to know that we all have a different understanding of how they should look, for they are, indeed, part of that which differentiates one person from another. Some of us hold them as rigid, while for others they are flexible. Any lack of boundaries will affect trust, just as much as the lack of respect towards them.

Reliability is a key component in all relationships. It’s associated with the ability to create an atmosphere, in which one feels safe and secure to share without this leading to a future disappointment. Usually, one is reliable, when he does what he has said he would, according to the given time-frame. For one to be reliable, he must know his strengths and limits in order to act accordingly.

Accountability is yet another essential element for trust. Can you take responsibility for your actions and face the consequences? Do you apologize when you make a mistake? Do you own your story, or have you delegated the writing to someone else? Perhaps, someone who can later take the blame for what has gone wrong.

Vault is literally the place where one keeps his most valuable things. Psychologically speaking, it is a metaphor for the ability to keep other people’s secrets safe. This means to share only what is yours! For If one easily shares someone else’s secret, what guarantee would I have that he wouldn’t do the same with mine?

Integrity shows when you speak your mind, and your actions are in accord with your words. Do you act as your values dictate? Are you honest? Brene Brown highlights the importance of integrity in building trust, as it’s key that one’s choices and actions spring from his understanding and differentiation between right and wrong. After all, it is not a coincidence that honesty is an actual capacity, one that plays a major role in the key conflict in positive psychotherapy. As Peseschkian defines honesty as: “the ability to express one’s opinion openly, to share one’s needs or interests, and to give information. Truthfulness and sincerity count as honesty. In a relationship between partners, honesty counts as faithfulness; in social communication, as candor and uprightness.”

Non-judgment is the ability to create a safe space, where one can express his needs, share his feelings and thoughts, without the threat of being judged or labelled. Non-judgment is reciprocal, as it refers to both parties!

Generosity is the opposite of thrift, and it means to assume the best about others. Brene Brown suggests that we all become more generous towards our assumptions and possible interpretations of others’ actions, thoughts and intentions.

How to build trust towards yourself?

If you struggle with self-trust, you can use the following 7 questions as a guideline. They can also raise your self-awareness with regards to which elements you might wish to strengthen.

B — did you respect your own boundaries? Did you stand up for them? Did you state clearly what you are comfortable with and what you find intolerable?

R — were you reliable? Did you do exactly as you said you would?

A — were you accountable? Did you take responsibility for your actions?

V — did you respect the principle of the vault? Did you share accordingly?

I — did your actions come from integrity? Were they in line with your beliefs?

N — did you ask for what you needed or wanted? Were you open-minded and non-judgmental, when you asked for help?

G —  were you generous and kind towards yourself?

Trusting someone can be a very challenging task, especially if one has already experienced the bitter taste of betrayal. I hope this article inspires you to use your courage, and that the guidelines above help you identify and address the breaches of trust. This will strengthen not only your relationship with yourself, but also with others.

Brown, B. (2017). Rising strong: How the ability to reset transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. Random House Trade Paperbacks.

Peseschkian, N. (2012). Positive psychotherapy: Theory and practice of a new method. Springer Science & Business Media.